Italian Lasagna my way

Homemade food is great for several reasons: It’s cheaper to eat at home than outside, YOU choose the ingredients, you can control what you use and how fresh your ingredients are, and it’s a prove of your love for the people you are going to eat with. Today I present you my recipe for Italian lasagna al ragu. A very tasty recipe, which I cooked for several times, always revising the composition. It was the winning recipe from my voting two weeks ago. Enjoy!

Recently I asked you to select a recipe for my next cuisine entry by voting for it. The participation in this vote was sadly not very high. The Italian Lasagna in my modified version made the race and the poll remains open, so you can still chose and I can estimate tendencies.

First of all, what do we need for a proper lasagna? Here you got all the ingredients on a glance. It’s quite a lot isn’t it…

All ingredients for lasagna al ragu, missing in this picture: garlic, an onion and parsley

A tasty sugo al ragu, prepared with red wine, which is better known as bolognaise sauce, but the Italian distincts on this used term bolognaise, if you know what you are talking about or not – For veggies you can use all kinds of vegetables as replacement for the meat, I could imagine mushrooms are great as well, just try it, be creative!

Sugo al ragu
The ingredients for a sugo al ragu. I prefer to prepare it with red wine, it becomes much more tasty!

A sugo béchamela, which you probably better know as béchamel sauce. This is the white sauce, which is responsible for the creaminess of good lasagna.

Sugo bechamela is the white sauce inside of the lasagna and some like to use it stand-alone with stewed veggies, I don’t though.

Plates for lasagna, 2 kinds of cheese, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano, and some spices, italian herbs, salt, pepper, a chili, garlic and fresh parsley.

The plates and the needed casserole. Put a cup of water under the first layer of plates, it assures everything will be soft after the needed cooking time – don’t forget that, it is important!

Sugo al ragu

Since I offered the recipe for sugo al ragu as a stand-alone recipe for all kinds of use, for example as sauce for your pasta, I will get more into detail here.

  • basic ingredients for nearly every European recipe of mine: olive oil, salt, pepper
  • ground beef, 500 g for a big casserole which will yield six portions of lasagna
  • fine sliced onions, take two small ones or a big one
  • tomatoes, around 5 – 6 for about 1 L of sugo and 2 spoons of tomato paste – you can take the binned tomatoes in one piece, they are great as well
  • 2 – 3 grated carrots
  • all the spices and red wine

OK, it’s quite easy. Put the sliced tomatoes in a high jar, add about 125 mL of water – you need it for getting the plates cooked, add the tomato paste,  some garlic in fine slices, 1 – 2 teaspoons of the italian herbs, 1 spoon of salt, pepper and a crushed chili. You purée everything to a homogenous sauce and put it aside.

In a pan you heat some olive oil, glaze the onions, then add the meat and roast it with the onions until it becomes slightly dark and you can smell the roasted aroma – in America until all the water is gone which is in the meat (we don’t have those issues in Europe), otherwise it won’t darken. When the meat turns dark, put the grated carrots and roast everything for another 5 min. under continuous stirring.

Then you quench with red vine, take a good glass, like 250 mL and leave it cook, until the liquid is gone again, before you put the tomato purée, which you prepared like described above. You leave this preparation cook for at least 30 min. at low heat and stirr from time to time. The obtained sauce is perfect for individual pasta sauce when you leave it stand over-night, for the lasagna you can use it right away.

Sugo bechamela

This one might be a little tricky without the knowledge about the behaviour of the ingredients.

  • 500 mL of milk and 250 mL of water
  • a good small bowl of flour
  • about 100 – 150 g of butter (I prefer if it is not too greasy)
  • salt and pepper

First of all put about 500 mL and 250 mL of water in a pot and add a good bowl – one of the smaller ones for breakfast – of flour. Don’t take too much, it is better to take less in the beginning and add some later, since you can’t undo “too much”. Important: The milk & water mixture has to be cold, while you add the flour, otherwise the flour starts gelling immediately due to its content of starch. If you make this mistake, you have big chunks of flour which do not desintegrate anymore! Add it while everything is cold and stirr strong to obtain a homogenous suspension which will be quite liquid by that time. Then start to heat and observe the increase of viscosity – in the end it has to be quite viscose, like a waffle or pancake dough. If you have to add flour later to obtain this consistency, add it through a sieve under permanent stirring. Add the butter in fine slices when you observe the increase of viscosity and stirr as long as the whole preparation needs to cook for a short moment and until all the butter is gone. You have the bechamela – spices can be added during the whole time.

Prepare the lasagna layer by layer

Since you got all the different ingredients now, start putting the plates into the casserole. A first layer, with some water, as bottom (see above). Then in equal portions bechamela and sugo as a layer.

The readily prepared main ingredients you layer up to the actual lasagna
Lasagna 05
Nice, isn’t it. Could have done the Austrian flag as well with those colors… 🙂
Lasagna 04
There you go, layer by layer – don’t forget to push the new layer tight for consistency!
Besides bechamela and ragu, put parmigiano and parsley into every layer

Add parsley and grated parmigiano reggiano as much as you want, before you put the next layer of plates. The next layer of plates has to be pushed quite strong onto the last one, this makes sure the consistency of the lasagna is good. And if you are done with layering, put the mozarella on top and the readily prepared lasagna into the oven for about 45 min. at 180°C, while you can increase the heat after 30 min. for the last 15 min. to 250°C for roasting the cheese. Done, enjoy it best with a glass of red wine!

The ready-to-eat lasagna, yields 6 portions in a big casserole and is all homemade – impress your future girlfriend boys, feed your family mums, enjoy a 3 – 4 day ratio of food singles!

The next recipe is due next month, if your input is big enough maybe in twoo weeks. Just make a selection by voting from the older entry you find here.

Summer delicacy – Boletus Carpaccio

The carpaccio of raw Boletus edulis is a delicacy of the summer time. When you have time to go hiking in the forests, take a look for those great mushrooms. It is a dish which is easy to prepare as entree or a full meal. It is healthy, luxurious and you will love it! Out of season I recommend to use big Champignons, although it is not comparable, but still good!

As promised in my last entry, Treasures of the forest, about my hikes into the forests of the Alps, where we collected dozens of different, delicious mushrooms, I bring up my first recipe. It’s the prime recipe if you have been successful on your hunt for the king of the mushrooms, Boletus edulis (Steinpilz, porcino, cèpe). You could use Champignons as well, the advantage: You don’t have to hike, you can have it all year long!

Boletus edulis the king of all mushrooms which grow above-ground.
Boletus edulis the king of all mushrooms which grow above-ground.

This dish is not comparable to all the other tasty dishes you can prepare when you have been successful, it’s easier to prepare and even more outstanding! The precondition: The mushrooms you use have to be in perfect condition, free of maggots and snails, with hard and fresh flesh. If you have older specimens as well, which are not in perfect condition, remove the sponge-parts and the skin on the cap, slice them thin and put those slices into the oven at around 70°C (160°F) for a couple of hours, while the oven is open a little bit so the humidty can escape. This makes sure all the insects and maggots inhabiting the mushrooms are killed – they crawl outta there and can be removed after the drying process. With the dried Boleti you can prepare Risotto for example, but this is another story…

The main ingredient, Boletus eduli. The older mushrooms can be sliced and dried. The fresh ones (right) can be used for the carpaccio.
The main ingredient, Boletus edulis. The older mushrooms can be sliced and dried. The fresh ones (right) can be used for the carpaccio.
Fine shaved Parmigiano Reggiano is the cheese of choice, but you can also leave it away if you prefer.
Fine shaved Parmigiano Reggiano is the cheese of choice, but you can also leave it away.
The ingredients besides parmesan: fresh black pepper, native olive oil, the mushrooms, sea-salt and sliced parsley (not depicted).

You do not need lots of ingredients, parmesan cheese – which is available under the names Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano – some good native olive oil, half a lemon, parsley, sea-salt and black pepper. The less spice you use, the better you will taste the mushroom itself.

Slice the mushroom exactly like that, slowly and smooth.
Slice the mushroom exactly like that, slowly and smooth.
The marinade looks like that if you did it right. Don't use too much of a single ingredient!
The marinade looks like that if you did it right. Don’t use too much of a single ingredient!

You have to use a sharp knife and slice the mushrooms very thin, not too thin, otherwise the pieces are going to break. In a little glas which can be closed or in Tupperware with a lid, you put 3 – 4 spoons of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, some sea-salt and a teaspoon of ultrafine chopped parsley – this amount is for one average sized Boletus. Close the lid and shake the glas to obtain a homogenous marinade.

Add all the ingredients, starting with the mushroom slices, layer for layer.
Add all the ingredients, starting with the mushroom slices, layer for layer.

When you have the slices, stratify the mushrooms, add cheese and black pepper, then drip marinade over all of it. Repeat that, as long as you have slices left – layer for layer. Like that the marinade can penetrate equally everywhere. And when you are done with that, leave the plate for about 20 minutes. After that: Enjoy this delicious and luxurious meal!

Boletus carpaccio, a delicacy of the summer, fresh, very tasty, very healthy and luxurious!
Boletus carpaccio, a delicacy of the summer, fresh, very tasty, very healthy and luxurious!